Russian Grand Prix 2015 Preview

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

Russian Grand Prix | Sunday 11 October | Sochi Autodrom | 12:30

A faultless drive in Suzuka saw Lewis Hamilton add to his ever-growing tally of race wins. The Brit now sits level with legendary Brazilian Ayrton Senna on 41 career race victories. The F1 circuit now heads to the picturesque city of Sochi in Russia.

Previous Race
Having qualified in second spot behind Championship rival Nico Rosberg, Hamilton was anxious to snuff out any lingering title hopes his Mercedes cohort may have held. With that obviously playing on his mind, the Brit went on the attack right from the outset. A daring dive off the line by the current World Champion forced Rosberg to take evasive action. By the time the dust had settled on the start line, Hamilton was already building a lead at the front of the field, leaving his team mate down in fourth place.

As the field started to come in for their first pit stops, there was an epic battle going on between Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas for third position. With the German cutting the gap between the Finn and himself with each passing corner, the Williams team opted to bring their man into the pits early, in hope of implementing a successful undercut. The strategy bore fruit and when Rosberg emerged from his stop, four laps later, Bottas had managed to get the position back. It was to be short-lived however as the German maneuvered his way past the plucky Finn two laps after coming out of the pits. Once the Mercedes man had gotten past Bottas, he had his sights firmly set on Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.

Rosberg would eventually pass Vettel, but not in the manner the Japanese crowd was hoping for. A bit of cunning planning from the Mercedes technical team lured Ferrari into pitting Vettel early. Mercedes had disguised Rosberg’s out-lap time so it looked like he was running one and a half seconds slower than he actually was. When the Ferrari strategists saw the slow lap time, they jumped at the chance to get their front-runner in for his final stop. By the time Vettel got out of the pits, Rosberg had already passed him.

While Vettel and Rosberg were dueling for second spot, Lewis Hamilton had built up a commanding lead. Hamilton would go on to finish the race in first with his teammate crossing the line a staggering 18.964 seconds behind him. Sebastian Vettel rounded out the podium positions, coming across the line 1.886 seconds behind Rosberg.

While Vettel made it on to the podium, his teammate Kimi Raikkonen had to settle for fourth place. He was followed across the line by the Williams driver Valterri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg of Force India. The top ten was rounded out by Romain Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz respectively.

The Sochi Autodrom made its debut on the F1 calendar twelve months ago. Despite the track being one of the youngest on show, it has endured almost as many name changes as the ‘Artist Formerly Known as Prince.' The facility was once again renamed earlier this year, to its current moniker.

Saturday’s race will see the drivers cover the third longest circuit distance of the year. The only venues that possess longer track lengths are Spa and Silverstone. The race will cover a total distance of 309.732 kilometers, which is broken down into 53 laps. Each of these 5.848-kilometer laps cover 1.7 kilometers of public road and contain 17 corners. The majority of these turns are slow right-handers that lead onto moderately long straights. The two DRS zones are located between turns one and two, as well as turns ten and thirteen.

With Sochi offering cooler waeather conditions and a less abrasive surface than some of the more recent venues, Pirelli have opted to change to the yellow-walled soft tyres and the red supersofts for this weekend.

The city of Sochi is generally a sun-drenched paradise at this time of year, but the local weather bureau is predicting a slight chance of rain for Sunday. Hopefully, the weather gods play ball and we see a repeat of the conditions that greeted the field in 2014.

Last year’s race saw Mercedes claim a one-two finish with Lewis Hamilton taking the spoils. The podium was rounded out by Valtteri Bottas who also claimed the fastest lap accolade.

To Win Outright
Lewis Hamilton  11/20
Nico Rosberg  33/10 
Sebastian Vettel  15/2
Kimi Raikkonen  25/1
Daniel Ricciardo  40/1
Felipe Massa  40/1
Valtteri Bottas  40/1   
Daniil Kvyat  66/1          

Value Bets
Lewis Hamilton -Winner & Fastest Qualifier (11/20 & 2/7)
Lewis is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest drivers to ever take to the tarmac. While many will cite his cars superior power unit as the main reason behind his dominance - the Brit still has to get that car over the line every week.  He has managed to do that with aplomb this season, finishing every race bar the Singapore Grand Prix.

Hamilton has now won eight of the fourteen Grand Prix’s held so far in 2015. While a win ratio of 57.1 percent is an amazing statistic, his qualifying stats are even more astonishing. He has started 13 of this season’s races from the front row of the grid and has taken pole on 11 occasions.

Hamilton may not offer a huge return but if you’re looking for a banker you’ve come to the right place.

Sebastian Vettel - Podium Finish (7/10) 
After a dominant display in Singapore, Ferrari fans were hoping Seb could repeat the trick in Japan. A return to form from the Mercedes drivers scuppered those hopes however, and Vettel was forced to settle for a third place finish.

Despite his title tilt effectively ending at Suzuka, Vettel still has a lot to race for. Nico Rosberg is only eleven points ahead of him on the Driver’s Championship Table and his team still need a few points to ensure second spot in the Constructor’s Championship. He will also want to improve on his poor showing at last year’s race in Sochi.

A poor qualifying performance was matched by an equally underwhelming main race. While his eighth place finish at last year’s event may put you off laying some money down on Vettel, it must be remembered that the German was still driving for a Red Bull team whose cars performance outputs were on a steady decline.

While I can’t see the German winning the Russian Grand Prix, I can see him finishing on the podium. At 7/10 Seb offers a decent return for a podium finish.

Daniil Kvyat - Top 6 Finish (Odds to be added upon release)

The young Russian rose to prominence during his qualifying stint at Sochi last year. Despite being behind the wheel of an extremely underpowered Toro Rosso, Kvyat managed to take his car all the way to the final qualifying session. While he couldn't make it onto the first two rows of the grid, he did manage to get onto the third. His main race was a bit of a let-down, however. A team order to race conservatively in order to not damage the car led to the Russian youngster finishing the race in eleventh place.

While he’s still driving a car that contains an underpowered Renault engine, Kvyat has been able to get a bit more out of the senior Red Bull car than the Toro Rosso he was driving last year. If he can match his qualifying efforts from the previous year, and there're no calls from his strategists to go easy on the car, he could well be in the top six come the end of the race.

Daniel Ricciardo - Top six finish (Odds to be added upon release)             

The talented Aussie finished last year’s Russian Grand Prix in seventh place - the exact same position he had qualified in.

He had a bit of a miserable time at Suzuka a fortnight ago. Whilst the fast track did not suit his car, the main reason for his poor showing was his collision with Felipe Massa off the start line. The contact between Massa’s Williams and his Red Bull saw both cars limp away from the incident with a punctured tyre. By the time Ricciardo had emerged from the pits, his race was effectively over.

Although he hasn’t reached the heights of  2014, and is being sorely let down by an underpowered Renault engine, Ricciardo is still a good driver. Despite his cars power issues, Ricciardo has managed to finish in the top 6 five times this season. I can see him adding to that at Sochi.

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